Monday, November 30, 2015

Why the childless should pay for other people's children

I don't  agree with all the reasoning below. To me the only issue is how the childless will be supported in their old age.  As it is now, other people's children support them -- children whom other people have made large financial sacrifices to raise.  That being so, it seems fair that the childless should chip in to help raise those children.  And roughly that happens now.  Is there a fairer system?  Maybe taxing childless people more heavily.  They should certainly not get a free ride -- JR

By Louise Roberts

Last time I checked, we Australians live in a society rather than a jungle and we help each other without expecting something lucrative in return.

A fair and reasonable society which nurtures its new generations yet offers government financial assistance to mums, dads or indeed both if they’re legitimately in need.

Families, you know, being the anchor of life.

Then there’s the society Liberal Democrats Senator David Leyonhjelm claims us sponging, selfish breeders should live in. One where we should bow down and thank the child-free folk who cough up tonnes of tax dollars all their lives to help raise our “bundles of dribble and spittum”.

Leyonhjelm — himself not a father — this week was speaking in favour of a cause I do in fact support.

This is the new No Jab No Pay bill which from January 2016 blocks childcare payments and other benefits for the deluded parents who refuse to vaccinate their children.

But in a logic which is truly skewed, the MP segued into an offensive, headline-grabbing rant against mums and dads, myself included, by claiming those without kids are forced to fund our five-star lifestyle.

“For some people, childlessness is not a choice; it is a great sadness. Forcing them to hand over money to more fortunate people is like charity in reverse,” he thundered in the Senate.

“It’s like making people in wheelchairs pay for other people’s running shoes.”

Here’s the thing — childless people should be subsidising families because it is the babies, the mums and the dads, who keep this country going.

They might be “other people’s kids” but they are the future, these irritating brats of today who will, with proper guidance and community infrastructure, be the productive taxpayers of tomorrow.

Yes, that means working as the barista, teacher, cop, dentist or palliative care nurse that even a childless person in 2015 might have to rely on in 40 years to come.

And therefore people who don’t have or don’t want kids but are working deserve to have a large chunk of their taxes go towards parents who need help to raise these sons and daughters.

As parents we are doing so much more than “leeching off” the child-free, we are breeding future tax payers. But in Leyonhjelm’s argument, the government “is not your parent or your spouse — get over it,” he said.

“You (the childless) work for more years and become more productive than the rest of Australia. You pay thousands and thousands of dollars more tax than other Australians. You get next to no welfare and your use of public health services is minimal.

“But you pay when other people get pregnant, you pay when they give birth, you pay when they stay at home to look after their offspring, you pay for the child’s food, clothing and shelter, you pay when the child goes to child care and you pay when the child goes to primary and secondary school. And then you pay when it goes to university.”

And it continued, a stream of anti-family and over-generalised garbage.

It’s obvious but we need new generations. The economy needs more babies. Maybe the gun-loving senator and his ilk need a reminder that low fertility rates are linked to diminished economic growth. That’s a text book basic.

We are all dependent on each other in a civilised society. I don’t have the qualifications to care for a terminally-ill patient but I am sincerely grateful that my tax dollars go towards educational opportunities for a stranger’s child who will one day work in the health industry.

In effect, someone else’s baby will work in a hospital and probably nurse me in my twilight years.

Then there’s the suggestion that children are “parasites” on the system — what about a heavy smoker who places a burden on the public health purse? A smoker choses to light up. A child has no say in being born.

It is shameful that when we decide to have children — those of us lucky enough to do so — we are lumped in with dole bludgers.

And if he is truly worried about tax, what about multinationals who make a huge profit in our markets and pay disproportionate penalties?

There may be few policies which benefit the childless and single, as Leyonhjelm argues, but protecting families is the point of government policy.

So when politicians cry “Won’t someone please think of the childless?”, I say we should be thinking of the child.

Look to China’s failed One Child policy if you want to see the alternative — less younger people to work, pay taxes and help look after the older generations.

Surely the idea would be to thank all taxpayers.

Fuelling a self-righteous Us and Them mentality just destroys our compassion.


Childcare tantrum over hourly fees

That wailing sound you heard coming from childcare centres this week was not from upset children. It was the caterwauling from the childcare industry as it howled with indignation over the ruinous, heretic suggestion by federal Minister for Education Simon Birmingham that parents should only be paying for the childcare they actually use.

Under the current system, a parent with the morning shift in a job-share might only use care for the first half of the day, but they’re still obliged to pay the full day flat rate – often 10 or 12 hours.

It’s not difficult to spot the childcare industry’s grievance – good, old-fashioned self-interested rent-seeking. After all, parents pay the full-day fees and the taxpayer helps parents by subsidising it with Child Care Benefit and Child Care Rebate. Childcare providers are obviously the beneficiaries of this.

It’s very cheeky of the industry to whip out the Helen Lovejoy defence (“won’t somebody think of the children?”) in saying that part-day childcare isn’t good enough for early learning. There is a reason why the duration and length of the preschool day generally matches that of the school day – it’s because that’s the type of arrangement that works best for children’s learning. And the part-day, part-time model is also what the evidence says has the least amount of negative impact on kids’ emotional wellbeing and behaviour.

With older kids at school for six hours a day and adults generally at work for eight (with some dispute as to how much of that is productive), who could mount an honest intellectual argument that 10 to 12 hours is not only beneficial, but crucial for children’s learning?

The Minister has attempted to stress that this is only a suggestion, and won’t be compulsory for centres at that. Some version of this proposal is undoubtedly doable. At the very least, part-time blocks that fit neatly into the full-time day can better suit different parents’ work needs, and assist children who may not be able to access a formal preschool program.

Parents and taxpayers have much to gain from this proposal. The only interests being served by the status quo are those of the childcare industry, who enjoy the ensuing windfalls.


Judge this book by its cover

Jeremy Sammut

There was some controversy over the use of the famed Hogarth ‘Gin Lane’ etching for the cover of my book on child protection policy in Australia.

However, the image was chosen after due consideration of the potential controversies.

One of the landmarks of 18th century British art, this iconic image of parental dysfunction and child maltreatment was an important piece of social commentary pivotal to the formation of the modern social conscience.

It helped spur the development of the great movements for social improvement that took shape in Britain in the 19th century, including the anti-child cruelty or child rescue movement.

This movement, and the child welfare legislation it spawned, developed under the influence of the writings of no less a figure than JS Mill.

Mill was the first thinker to identify that children had independent rights as future citizens. In On Liberty, Mill argued that if parents failed to fulfil their fundamental obligations to the welfare and development of children, the state and its agents should step in to see that those obligations were fulfilled.

I believe that contemporary child protection practices in Australia – which over-emphasise family preservation and upholding the rights of abusive and neglectful parents at almost all costs – are perversion of the true origins of the field in Mill’s sense of child rescue and children’s rights.

Critics are sure to point to the cover and take offence at the apparent suggestion that what is done today in the name of child protection amounts to a return to Hogarthian times of society permitting and tolerating child abuse and neglect.

I am comfortable with that suggestion. Because that’s precisely what the book is saying.

If the claim that family preservation amounts to presiding over child maltreatment instead of eradicating it makes the critics uncomfortable, then good. Because the weight of facts, logic and evidence compiled in the book supports this claim.

Those who are shocked by the cover should also consider the alternatives. The cover could have featured the photos of the utter chaos and filth of the dysfunctional household in which Chloe Valentine was left to live and die by Families SA, which were tendered into evidence at the coronial inquest into her death.

These photos where simply too shocking, too disgusting, too disturbing to put on the cover. Those who find Hogarth too shocking ought to take their social consciences for a walk through the underclass homes in which too many children suffer.


A new Aussie icon? Alongside Vegemite?

AS A columnist and memoir writer, I am used to sharing dark secrets with my readers. I have admitted to motherhood failures, to the breakdown of my marriage, to having anxiety, and to a thousand embarrassments and humiliations. But no revelation has ever evoked such an uproar, such unrest, as my recent confession.

And so, bracing myself for the flak, I will repeat it here.
I do not like the Golden Gaytime.

Yes, it’s true. That iconic ice cream, that symbol of Australian summer, that epitome of bronzed beach culture, is not at all to my taste. I don’t like it. In fact, I find it a little bit repulsive.

Now, I love toffee ice cream as a concept, but the rendition in the Gaytime is both bland and sickly sweet. It’s not ice cream; it’s confectionary, and unsatisfying at that. The chocolate coating is too thin, and the biscuit crumbs are hideously unrefreshing. The whole combination is wrong. Give me a Magnum or a chocolate Paddlepop any day of the week.

But why is this even relevant? When I mentioned on my Facebook page that I was not a fan of the famous snack on a stick, I was pilloried. And although most of the criticism was pretty damn funny, the message came through loud and clear.

To dislike the Gaytime is to be unAustralian. And I, the disliker, am a national disgrace. The comments came in thick and fast.

“You don’t like the Gaytime? I’m shocked and appalled!” wrote Michelle.

“Unfollowed,” wrote Mel. “Gaytimes are f**king awesome.”

“Kerri. Delete this sick filth,” demanded Shannon.

And from Robin: “You’re clearly in a negative emotional space to even think of calling Gaytimes crap. Gaytimes are the ultimate in ice cream experiences. I hope you take some time to meditate on this issue and see the error of your ways.”

Even my old friend G texted me to complain. “You don’t like Golden Gaytimes? And you only reveal this now??? Et tu, Brute!”

I was stunned. How can not liking a popular food cause so much outrage? What was wrong with people?

Is ice cream simply fat and sugar-laden junk food or is there some nutritional goodness?

But then I turned on the radio, and heard a celebrity announcer discuss the fact that she prefers Promite or Marmite to Vegemite.

What kind of a monster is this woman? I thought. What kind of demented tastebuds does she have that prefer Promite or Marmite to the One and Only Yeast Extract Spread? She needs to be banished from the airways, I decided. No, she needs to be banished from this country! She isn’t an Australian! She’s a traitor and a disgrace!!!

And then I realised. Perhaps I had been too dismissive of the Gaytime. For the sake of our nation, I might give it another try.


Sunday, November 29, 2015

An evil crusade against an innocent woman comes to an end

It finally took a conservative NSW government to do justice. The article below was written by Wendy Bacon and appeared in "New Matilda". The Bacons, Salmons and Gentles were three well known Communist families in the heyday of the now defunct Communist Party of Australia and, as they say, the apple doesn't fall far from the tree.  So Wendy appears to have remained true to her political inheritance.  So I would not normally quote her. Even a stopped clock is right twice a day however and I have been following the Catt case since the beginning.  And I can say that Wendy had no need to exaggerate in her story below.  It really was as bad as she says

It looked like another day of dry court proceedings and delays. But then a message from out of the blue turned a 26-year campaign for justice on its head. Wendy Bacon, who has followed the story for 16 years, on the day NSW finally ended its pursuit of Roseanne Beckett:

On Monday afternoon I was on my way home from the NSW Supreme Court when into my inbox popped an unexpected message from the media advisor for the NSW Attorney-General Gabrielle Upton. “Attached is a statement which might be of interest to you.”

I read the first words. “The State has agreed to pay Roseanne Beckett nearly $4.092 million in damages. This relates to two counts of malicious prosecution. Payment for Ms Beckett will be made shortly.”

After 26 years, Roseanne Beckett had finally triumphed. I read it again and immediately rang Beckett who told me she had been downloading an urgent message on her phone. At first she did not absorb the news. But when I said this means you never have to go to court again, she began to sob.

This is highly unusual for a woman who has stood strong under enormous pressure. Like all of us, Beckett’s mood and manner changes with her circumstances. I have seen her angry, elated, charming, steely, irritated, demoralised, and scared. There were grim moments during the fifteen years that I have followed the case, such as when no lawyer could be found to adequately represent her, or when she received tapes of Barry Catt screaming threats against her and another women. Beckett, her family, and other witnesses remained terrified of Peter Thomas – the former detective who framed her for a number of offences – until he died last year.

She was deeply distressed and humiliated when Channel Nine’s 60 Minutes aired false allegations that she was a child abuser after her release in 2001. But only once before have I heard her voice break into sobs and that was when her daughter Julie, who had stood by her side during the 2004 Inquiry into her convictions, became a quadriplegic after a tragic car accident in Canada.

Before the news came through a Monday hearing in the case of Roseanne Beckett against the State of NSW had been an anti-climax. The Crown Law department sent two barristers and a solicitor to inform the Court that the State of NSW would withdraw its application to Justice Harrison to put a stay on his judgment awarding Roseanne Beckett just over $4 million in damages.

Beckett, her lawyers, and supporters left the court expecting that an appeal and possibly an application to stay the judgment would still be lodged in the Court of Appeal. For an appeal that will take several days, the waiting time can be more than a year. If the Crown had appealed, Beckett’s team intended to cross-appeal against the decision in the malicious prosecution counts that she did not win. For Beckett, who is now in her late sixties, it looked like she was looking forward to a future of more tense days of court preparation and hearing. The fact that if the Crown failed to pay the damages interest would start to accrue was not much comfort.

As we left the court the jubilation of the victory several weeks ago was muted.

However, behind the scenes political pressure was building. Supporters had begun sending letters to the Premier Mike Baird and NSW Attorney-General Gabrielle Upton. The feminist online campaigning group Destroy the Joint had posted New Matilda’s story on its site while 2GB broadcaster Alan Jones has been calling for justice for Beckett for some time. A formidable combination if ever there was one.

It was also clear at recent court hearings that the Crown was scrambling to find legal points on which to mount an appeal.

I was mulling over these events when the email came through. Upton’s statement read, “This is the right thing to do. [Beckett’s] case is extraordinary and requires a sensitive response after so long including 10 years of imprisonment for Ms Beckett. Roseanne Beckett has been through enough and should not have to fight the government anymore. She deserves the right to move on.”

Finally the Crown law department, that has so consistently refused to accept responsibility for any of the misdeeds of those acting on the state’s behalf, has been instructed to concede. The fact that the news is welcome should not obliterate 26 years of failure.

Beckett, who soon recovered her equilibrium, told New Matilda: “The hardest thing about the fight was the very fact the people in positions of power such as the NSW Director of Public Prosecutions and the Crown were aware Thomas was a criminal from day one, they had more than enough well-documented evidence to that very fact, yet they restlessly pursued me with the public purse at their disposal. How can any person match that?”

Not long after Beckett’s arrest the Manager of Family and Community Services in Taree Greg Baggs had reported that he had been threatened and stood over by the detective in charge of the case, Peter Thomas. Baggs had criticised Thomas for handing Beckett’s step-children, who had alleged their father Barry Catt had abused them, over to one of his close friends. In a later report to the NSW Ombudsman he noted the sinister under-tones running through the case and recent allegations of a police liaison officer’s involvement in abuse of Aboriginal children. He noted how much Beckett cared for the children and protected their interests. All of this material was available at the trial but was never handed by the NSW Police or Director of Public Prosecutions to the defence lawyers.

Even before her 1991 trial, Thomas had resigned from the police while charges against him had been recommended but not pursued. Right up until the end of the malicious prosecution trial the State was actively working to prevent evidence of Thomas’ numerous wrong doings being presented in court.

Beckett hopes that her “difficult journey, will now make it much easier for many innocent victims to obtain justice – that they don’t have to suffer and fight as I have.”

But that will only happen if there is reform that allows miscarriage of justice cases to be considered by a non-adversarial body that has the purpose of establishing the truth in order to deliver a just result.

Yesterday, miscarriage of justice researcher and campaigner Dr Bob Moles called for national reform.

Moles’ organisation Networked Knowledge has already won reforms giving potential victims of miscarriages of justice more rights to appeal in South Australia and is now campaigning for a new Right to Appeal act in all states, and the establishment of a national Criminal Cases Review Commission. (For more, see his timeline).

Moles has been involved for many years in seeking the release of Henry Keogh who spent 21 years in prison for a murder conviction that was finally overturned last year. The office of the SA Director of Public Prosecutions announced last week that it would drop a further attempt to prosecute Keogh. As in Beckett’s case, senior officers were aware of evidence raising doubts about Keogh’s conviction ten years before his release.

In a letter to me Moles wrote, “What happened to Roseanne is a perfect illustration of the systemic and deeply entrenched ‘mates’ network which can be called upon to protect the perpetrators of such illegal activities.”

Moles also wrote that findings by Judge Davidson, who found after his inquiry into Beckett’s convictions in 2004 that key Crown witnesses were likely to have fabricated evidence against her, “should have sounded alarm bells and brought urgent assistance to deal with this issue. Instead, Roseanne has had to battle with the legal system for just over 10 years since then to attain justice. It is clear that police officers, who were duty bound to assist Roseanne, used their powers to distort the investigatory and judicial process and to secure the conviction on multiple serious charges of an innocent woman.”

“This is the worst possible type of miscarriage of justice – when the legal process is hijacked by the legal officials (police officers) who consciously and deliberately use the legal system to inflict serious harm on innocent citizens. The shame here is that there should be inbuilt checks and balances with systems of peer review to identify such aberrations at the earliest opportunity.”

Moles agrees with Roseanne Beckett that domestic violence was at the heart of her matter. “Barry Catt was a very violent person, he was protected, I was the victim, yet I was the one persecuted,” said Beckett.

Roseanne Beckett’s case will be remembered for the way she was vilified, the amount of compensation she was awarded, the years she spent in prison and the length of her fight for justice. If she had allowed domestic abuse to continue she might well have ended up dead. If she had fled, she would have left Barry Catt’s children in danger. She tried to exercise her legal rights to hold Catt accountable for his actions but she was outsmarted by Barry Catt’s mate Peter Thomas and ended up in jail herself.


Same-sex marriage debate goes to the heart of our democracy

Can state recognition of same-sex marriage be reconciled with religious freedom?

The calculated assault on freedom of religious liberty in Australia is rapidly gaining pace with the focus in Tasmania where the Catholic Bishops of Australia now face formal action on the grounds that their defence of traditional marriage contravenes anti-discrimination law.

This action — an effort to deny the Catholic Church the right to ventilate its social and religious views on marriage as a union between a man and a woman — has become a test case. The issue is manifest: it is whether existing law and current public opinion can censor or partially silence the churches from full public expressions of their beliefs.

For Australia and its alleged open spirit of debate, this is an unprecedented situation. It reveals an aggressive secularism dressed in the moral cause of anti-discrimination justice but with a long-run agenda that seeks to transform our values and, ultimately, drive religion into the shadows. The vanguard for this drive is the same-sex marriage campaign.

The Tasmanian action before the state’s Anti-Discrimination Commission highlights what many parliamentarians and journalists have preferred to deny: that the campaign for same-sex marriage threatens to infringe the rights of the church and religious freedom. Sustained denials of this proposition by many pro same-sex marriage politicians are untenable given the evidence to the contrary.

Their denialism is based in several different notions — a desire to make the same-sex marriage transition as fast and smooth as possible, a naivety about its meaning and a more disreputable sentiment, namely, a quiet acceptance that same-sex marriage as an ideology must strike against freedom of religious conscience.

With the Turnbull government upholding the previous pledge of the Abbott government to conduct a national plebiscite on same-sex marriage the immediate issue is whether advocates of traditional marriage will be inhibited and intimidated in making their case in a campaign. This would be an extraordinary situation for the country. Yet it has a logic flowing from the Tasmania case.

The greater danger, however, lies elsewhere. It is whether the terms and conditions under which same-sex marriage is legislated in this country is founded in a new intolerance against religious freedom. The refusal of many federal parliamentarians to confront this issue honestly is a conspicuous feature of the public debate.

The churches, belatedly, are rallying on this issue. The Catholic Archbishop of Sydney, Anthony Fisher, said in his recent Acton Lecture that Pope Francis had identified “respect for the democratic ideal of religious liberty as an essential precondition of peaceful coexistence”. Going to the heart of the issue, he quoted the Pope that “religious liberty, by its nature, transcends places of worship and the private sphere” and must be preserved in the public square. Yet this is the exact point of the ideological attack.

Fisher’s lecture sketches the cultural crisis the church sees as a potential outcome for Australia — that in 10 years religious schools will be forced by law to teach a gay-friendly concept of marriage in conflict with their beliefs, that clergy will face fines and possibly imprisonment, that faith schools and teachers will be mired in legal threats for “hate speech”, that religious organisations will be compelled by law to extend spousal benefits on a same-sex basis and will have lost their charitable status and that all businesses will be compelled to provide services for same-sex marriage, regardless of their beliefs.

Referring to the decision of the Tasmanian Anti-Discrimination Commission, prominent Jesuit and law professor Frank Brennan, who accepts same-sex marriage will be legislated, tells Inquirer: “To date, the bishops have spoken cautiously and respectfully. They know their views are not in fashion. It is ridiculous to have a national debate on a plebiscite stifled by assertions that church teaching on marriage is offensive to some individuals and likely to cause offence to a reasonable person.

“Debate should not be put on hold while the Tasmanian Anti-Discrimination Board decides whether it is arguable that a reasonable person might be ­offended. The board is not the thought police or, at least, it shouldn’t be. Those who take ­offence are those who think churches should butt out of all moral debate in the public square. On this one, we should all let a thousand flowers bloom.”

This is a contest over power, ideas and law. With the Catholic Church deeply compromised and unpopular because of the child sexual abuses and cover-ups, it is vulnerable to a calculated strike by parliaments and anti-discrimination boards using the cover of same-sex justice to achieve a quantum reduction in religious freedom and a pivotal change in the norms of our society.

The complainant in Tasmania, transgender Greens political candidate, Martine Delaney, said the church’s 15-page pastoral letter, “Don’t Mess with Marriage” authorised by the Catholic Bishops of Australia was “insulting” and “offensive”. Tasmanian law has an exceptionally low threshold for unlawful conduct under anti-discrimination law and therefore is the ideal jurisdiction to intimidate expressions of faith.

Australian Marriage Equality, the main lobby group for same-sex marriage, has given robust support to the complaint. “This booklet denigrates and demeans same-sex relationships and will do immense harm to gay students and students being raised by same-sex couples,” AME national director Rodney Croome said in June.

“The Catholic Church has every right to express its views from the pulpit but it is completely inappropriate to enlist young people as the couriers of its prejudice. Any principal or teacher who exposes vulnerable children to such damaging messages not only violates their duty of care but is a danger to students.”

Tasmanian Anti-Discrimination Commissioner Robin Banks found the Catholics bishops and Archbishop of Hobart Julian Porteous have a case to answer. Procedures are under way that could involve a conciliation process and, if that fails, then a hearing before a tribunal.

Porteous has said the federal debate about marriage “has significant implications for the future of our society” and tells Inquirer his intention is to ensure the Catholic community “understood where we stand on the issue of marriage’’.

“It was not my intention to ­offend,” he says. “Rather, it was and is, to express the teaching of the Catholic Church. I regret if ­offence has been taken by individuals and will work with the commission to resolve the matter.”

The pastoral letter was distributed to parents of Catholic school students. It defends existing Australian law, including the Marriage Amendment Act of 2004 and the Catholic sacrament of marriage. The letter begins with a declaration that the Catholic Church opposes all forms of unjust discrimination. It says gay people must be treated with “respect, compassion and sensitivity” and “every sign of discrimination” against them “should be avoided”.

The letter says a struggle is now under way “for the very soul of marriage”. It says “the union of a man and a woman is different from other unions — not the same as other unions”. Accordingly, it is “unjust” to assert there is “nothing distinctive about a man and a woman, a father or a mother”. For the church, marriage is both a natural and holy institution. It ­argues the importance, as far as possible, of children having both a mother and father.

It says if the law changed, then our culture would teach marriage was merely an emotional bond rather than a union founded on sexual complementarity. It warns that in this situation, people who adhered to the natural definition of marriage “will be characterised as old-fashioned, even bigots, who must answer to social disapproval and the law”. Finally, it lists a series of examples from abroad showing that even if same-sex marriage law has an exemption for ministers of religion, freedom of religious conscience is gradually being eroded.

AME’s repudiation of this letter as an acceptable “public square” document reveals the sheer extent of the deadlock in the same-sex marriage debate. The consequences far transcend the definition of marriage itself. Same-sex marriage is provoking an upheaval about freedom of conscience, religious liberty and the norms that govern our democratic discourse.

The same-sex lobby believes such an authorised letter of church teaching constitutes prejudice, an offence against gays, a danger to children, denigrates same-sex relationships and should not be tolerated under anti-discrimination law.

In short, it is unacceptable for the Catholic Church to make its case because that case is offensive. Ultimately, this is the bedrock position. In Tasmania the church is now fighting for the right to expound its beliefs in the public square. The culture of repression sanctioned by anti-discrimination law continues to grow.

Its impact is already marked. Many people will not defend existing law or the centuries-long traditional concept of marriage precisely because they are accused of prejudice or offending others. Brennan’s point is correct: in its essence this is a campaign to force the voice of the churches from the public square on the grounds of ­offensiveness.

Anti-discrimination laws vary across the states. The extent to which they can be harvested once same-sex marriage is legislated is difficult to assess and, in some states, the churches may still sit on solid ground. But there can be no doubting that among same-sex marriage activists, the political will exists and the pathway is apparent to silence opponents. One upshot is that Tasmanian Premier Will Hodgman has said he will review Tasmania’s law in the light of recent events.

What is required, however, is a new approach to the same-sex marriage debate. That approach has been best articulated by Human Rights Commissioner Tim Wilson, who said some time ago that in this transition, support for same-sex marriage and support for religious freedom should enjoy equal status. This would be the response of a tolerant society. It has not been the approach of the Australian parliament.

The legislation of same-sex marriage means the laws of the state and the laws of the churches (at least most churches) will be in conflict over the meaning of marriage. This leads to the question: how tenable will this historic difference be? And it prompts another question: is the push for same-sex marriage founded in tolerance or intolerance? The evidence is mixed and varies from person to person, group to group.

What is undeniable, however, is that marriage equality is a powerful ideology and ideologies rarely stop short of complete victory. Can state recognition of same-sex marriage be reconciled with religious freedom or is the erosion of freedom of religious conscience an integral step on this journey?

These are the real issues at stake. The country deserves more than weasel words from its politicians and hollow crusading from its media. Don’t be fooled, yet again, by phony assurances that Tasmania is a one-off, means nothing and will be easily settled. It is, rather, a signal that issues without precedent for our democracy are being put on the table.


Bill Shorten’s carbon hit to cost of living

Former Reserve Bank board member Warwick McKibbin warned that the Labor plan went too far beyond the commitments being made by similar nations.

Bill Shorten has sparked a polit­ical fight over the cost of living after setting a climate change target that could impose a cost burden 10 times greater than Julia Gillard’s carbon tax.

The new Labor target was branded “way out of range” of other countries as world leaders prepare to meet in Paris on Monday to try to agree on a united plan to address global warming.

Labor is defending its goal of a 45 per cent cut in Australia’s greenhouse gas emissions by insisting­ it will not need an expensiv­e price on carbon that drives up household energy bills.

In a break from bipartisanship on previous targets, Labor’s ambition is almost twice the size of the government’s offic­ial goal of cutting carbon pollution by 26-28 per cent, which Malcolm Turnbull will reiterate when he attends the Paris talks.

The Opposition Leader’s move prompted concerns yesterday that a partisan brawl over competing targets would damage the prospects for real action on climate change, frightening investors and making a consensus more difficult.

Former Reserve Bank board member Warwick McKibbin, the author of a detailed economic study of climate change targets, warned that the Labor plan went too far beyond the commitments being made by similar nations.

Professor McKibbin estimated that the Labor goal would need a carbon price of $200 a tonne without access to inter­national credits — almost 10 times the $23 fixed price in Ms Gillard’s carbon pricing scheme four years ago.

While only an early estimate, the $200 figure is a like-for-like comparison in today’s dollars based on the fact that the carbon tax only needed to achieve a 5 per cent cut in greenhouse gas emissions by 2020.

Mr Shorten said yesterday that Labor would set up an “internationally linked” emissions trading scheme, suggesting it could allow the purchase of permits that might keep the price down. The new Labor and Coal­ition targets aim to cut carbon emissions by 2030, compared with the base year of 2005.

Professor McKibbin, who holds the chair in public policy at the Centre for Applied Macro­economic Analysis at the Australian National University, said Labor’s target was “far more than any other country” was planning at Paris.

“Why would you go much harder than everyone else when it’s the global target that matters?” he asked.

“At the moment, Australia is contributing a greater economic loss than other countries with the 26-28 per cent target. To be going further out in front is not good policy.”

The Labor target compares with commitments by Japan (25 per cent), the US (41 per cent) and Europe (34 per cent).

Frontier Economics director Danny Price said the real impact on Australians was greater on a per-capita basis and showed that Labor was too far ahead of other countries. “The problem with such tough targets and high costs is that they generate objections to clim­ate change policies,” said Mr Price, an expert in the carbon pricing debate over the past decade.

“You can see why Labor’s doing it, because they want to appeal to Labor/Green voters. But in appealing to those voters it makes the actual­ implementation of the policy less likely.”

The Business Council of Australia and the Australian Industry Group welcomed the chance to consult with Labor on the new target, but the Minerals Council of Australia dismissed it as an “ambit claim” and favoured the government plan instead.

Climate Institute chief John Connor said the Labor target was “stronger and more credible” and would achieve the agreed inter­national goal of preventing global temperatures rising by 2C — something he said the government target would not do.

The Climate Change Author­ity, set up by Labor, recommends a cut of 40-60 per cent.

Labor is yet to reveal how its ETS would work or what price it would set, the key factor in shaping the cost impact on households.

Professor McKibbin’s economic analysis with the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade this year found that a 26 per cent target would trim 0.6 per cent from gross domestic product in 2030 while a 45 per cent target would trim 1 per cent from GDP instead.

Given that the government’s Intergenerational Report forecasts GDP to reach about $3 trillion in 2030, Labor’s target would in theory cost $30 billion in forgone economic output in that year. The government target would cost $18bn. Economic growth continues under both targets.

Mr Shorten countered the idea that his target would hurt the economy, saying “this modelling took no account of the ­economic consequences of not adopting this sort of target”.

Setting out his policy in a speech to the Lowy Institute in Sydney yesterday, Mr Shorten made it clear there would be help for families to deal with the costs.

“We will undertake this process mindful of the consequences for jobs, for regions and for any impact­s on households,” he said.

Labor also argues it will not have to rely only on an ETS to reach its target because of its commitment to make renewable energy account for half of all power by 2030.

Scott Morrison warned of the economic damage from the Labor plan while Industry Minister Christopher Pyne said the policy would “smash household budgets” and the economy by re­introducing a carbon tax. Labor rejected­ the claim that its ETS would be a carbon tax, citing a comment from the Prime Minister in September that drew a distinction between a carbon tax and an ETS and other mechanisms to reduce emissions.


Friday, November 27, 2015

"Miss Dhu" did NOT die because of unpaid fines

The claim below that she did is totally dishonest.  She died from the complications of a bashing she received from her partner. Aboriginal men bashing their women is a sadly common occurrence.  I have seen it myself and it can be very severe. Only a greatly enhanced police presence in Aboriginal communities might help the women concerned. The claim below, by contrast, ignores all that,  simply making cynical use of her case in order to get fines waived for Aborigines.

And the authorities were not negligent.  Seeing that she was ill, they took her to hospital several times.  The doctors however had difficulty finding what was wrong, not because of ill-will but because of the characteristic difficulty Aborigines have in communicating with whites.  For instance, it is a reflexive custom for Aborigines to say what they think their questioner wants to hear.  So a question such as "Are you OK now?" would get a Yes reply even if such a reply were inaccurate.

And it does appear that her repeated unsuccessful visits to hospital had made the guards impatient and suspicious, which is why they were a bit rough with her towards the end but which is also an understandable response in the circumstances. 

Clearly, nobody was aware of the difficulties that communication with Aborigines can pose.  So if there are any lessons to be learned it is to improve that understanding, either by employing experienced Aboriginal intermediaries or by having all staff trained by people who really know Aborigines and their culture well.  It really is an art.

I note in passing that the doctor who saw her was from India.  That could well have amplified the communication difficulties.  One often hears of problems arising from a "communication breakdown" but this would appear to be a particularly unfortunate example of it

Miss Dhu died in police custody in excruciating pain, all because she couldn’t pay her fines.

IMAGINE this. You’re 22-years-old, and you should have your whole life ahead of you.

Instead, you’re stuck in a violent relationship, using drugs and facing legal troubles. The bills are piling up, and so are the fines you’ve been ordered to pay by the courts — $3622.

That’s the situation a young Yamatji woman, known as Miss Dhu for cultural reasons, found herself in when she paid the ultimate price, a West Australian coronial inquest has heard.

Miss Dhu died in agonising pain in police custody last year — all because she could not afford to pay her fines.

The case has prompted calls for WA laws to be overhauled, so that vulnerable Australians who cannot pay their fines do not meet the same tragic fate.

Family members who filled the courtroom when a two-week inquest into Miss Dhu’s death opened yesterday gasped and cried while watching security footage of her time in custody at South Hedland Police Station, in the Pilbarra.

Security footage showed a male police officer entering Miss Dhu’s cell and trying to lift her up by her arm, before she slumped back and hit her head on the concrete floor.

The footage showed police dragging and carrying her limp body from the cell to a divvy van. One officer was heard telling Miss Dhu to “shut up” as she moaned.

Less than an hour later, she was dead.

A lethal combination of pneumonia and septicaemia killed Miss Dhu, who the court heard had suffered broken ribs at the hands of her violent partner.

The inquest heard she had repeatedly complained in custody of pain and having difficulty breathing. Miss Dhu’s father Robert testified she had told him her boyfriend had “flogged” her and broken her ribs.

She was taken to the Hedland Health Campus hospital twice in two days, and each time doctors deemed her fit to remain in custody after giving her medication, including diazepam and paracetamol.

On the third day, Miss Dhu could not move her legs and her body was numb, so police carried her to the van and took her to hospital again.

But one officer believed she pretended to faint when they placed her in a wheelchair.

Dr Vafa Naderi told the court Miss Dhu kept changing her story, which made it difficult to characterise the nature and location of her pain.

“Dr Naderi’s impression was that she was withdrawing from drugs or had behavioural issues,” counsel assisting the coroner Ilona O’Brien said in her opening address.

Miss Dhu’s mother Della Roe told the coroner her daughter was family-oriented and bubbly, but that changed when she started dating a much older man and using drugs.

On one occasion, Ms Roe noticed her daughter had a black eye, but when she asked whether her partner had hit her, Miss Dhu replied: “Oh mum, don’t worry. It’s an old one, it’s going away.”

Miss Dhu’s father said he was concerned his daughter was treated cruelly and like a dog in custody. “They should not treat anybody like that,” he said.

Outside court, Ms Roe sobbed while describing the depression, grief and sleepless nights she suffered as a result of her daughter’s death. “I still have no answers; I still don’t know how or why she died,” she told the ABC.

“These emotions I go through is like a temperature gauge, the pressure is high and I don’t know where I should stand. I want answers for myself, my family and for friends that knew my daughter.”

Miss Dhu’s family is campaigning for changes to WA laws for people who cannot pay fines, with the help of the Human Rights Law Centre.

In the state, recipients of fines can elect to spend a day in jail for every $250 worth of fines, a policy that has been blamed for the high number of indigenous people in WA jails.

Shadow Aboriginal Affairs Minister Ben Wyatt has called it “a terrible way to operate a justice system, a terrible way to operate the finances of the state”, and unfairly targeted the poor.

Lawyer Ruth Barson said about 1000 people were jailed every year because of unpaid fines.  “Miss Dhu was a young woman without any money in a domestic violence situation. She was locked up because she had not paid her fines,” Ms Barson told the ABC.

“Even though Miss Dhu tragically died over 12 months ago, the Western Australian Government is yet to change the laws that allowed such a vulnerable young woman to be locked up ... Western Australia urgently needs a fair and a flexible fines system like that in New South Wales which differentiates between those who will not and those who cannot pay their fines.

“Vulnerable people like Miss Dhu who can’t pay their fines should not be locked up; rather they should be given the opportunity to rebuild their lives. It is time for the Western Australia to take action and rebalance the justice system.”

Back in 1987, NSW teenager Jamie Partlic was attacked and left in a coma for six weeks by another inmate at Long Bay prison, where he had been locked up for refusing to pay a parking fine.

The laws were then changed so that prison was no longer an option; instead, licences can be suspended, the Sheriff’s Office can confiscated belongings to be sold to pay off fines, and community service can be ordered.

Other legal reforms being debated in WA include a custody notification service like in NSW, where the Aboriginal Legal Service must be notified every time an indigenous person is taken into custody.

The WA Deaths in Custody Watch Committee has urged that Miss Dhu’s death ought not be in vain, and is campaigning on Facebook for law reform.

Chairman Marc Newhouse told The Australian the case must not be overlooked as it “goes to the heart of the criminalisation of vulnerable women”.

Premier Colin Barnett fast-tracked the inquest after public outrage, which included rallies across Australia about deaths in custody.


Tolerance of Muslim hostility has gone too far

HANDOUTS and #hashtags haven’t worked, multi-faith kumbaya sessions haven’t cut any ice — the evidence is that the only way to eradicate ­Islamist terrorism is to kill the terrorists.

Recruit as many imams as you may wish but Muslims admit their faith has no Pope, no central figure with a commanding stature, and no discipline beyond the wildly differing interpretations of the 1400-year-old Koranic verses.

As evidenced by the war that has raged between Shia and Sunni Muslims since the death of Mohammed, the most diligent Koranic scholars offer little hope of peace either.

Multiculturalism certainly isn’t the key. Nations that have opted for the soft-left view that all cultures have equal value are now wondering why they have no-go zones like Belgium’s Molenbeek, which in the week since the atrocities committed in Paris became shorthand for Islamist terrorism in Europe after Molenbeek residents were identified as the brains behind the slaughter.

Writing in the Belgian newspaper La Libre, Belgium Liberal senator Alain Destexhe, the former secretary-general of Doctors Without Borders, expressed his shock at the lawlessness he found. “I was in shock there,” he wrote. “Women covered with a burqa, in contradiction of Belgian law, walk around undisturbed next to policemen. Officials of the electricity and water companies don’t come to check the meters without bodyguards.”

He blamed his country’s socialists, those who “in their youth worshipped Stalin and ignored the gulags, and in their old age have fallen captive to the charms of the Muslim clerics”. He also targeted former socialist mayor Philippe Moreaux, who stands accused of conducting a “social multicultural laboratory experiment” in the suburb during a period of major immigration from the 1970s that saw the north African population grow fourfold.

The suburb now has a population which is one-quarter Muslim, similar to that of metropolitan Brussels, but which has some neighbourhoods where some 80 per cent of the people are descendants of north Africa. Unemployment in Molenbeek is almost 30 per cent, compared with 8.5 per cent for the rest of Brussels.
Belgium’s Socialist Party relied on Muslim votes to hold power on the council and permitted Muslim residents to reject traditional Belgian culture.

Australia has a far smaller percentage of Muslim residents than Belgium but, alarmingly, has provided a disproportionately high number of young jihadis to the conflicts in Afghanistan, Iraq and now Syria.

A handful have been zealous converts but the majority have been first- and second-generation Australians who have succumbed to slick terrorist recruiters who lure their pathologically vulnerable targets with claims of religious piety attached to ultimate thrill seeking.

American assets were hit by terrorists long before the 9/11 hijackers murdered 3000 people in their 2001 attacks on the United States.

Australians were targets before the first and second Bali bombings in 2002 and 2005, yet after each major attack the initial Western response has always defaulted to somnolence as the best way to avoid confrontation with the Muslim world, which ultimately must deal with its own millennia-old conflicts instead of blaming convenient external issues.

The chronic weakness in the Western leadership doesn’t give much reason for optimism.

On the world stage, only one person in recent times has provided any leadership in the war against the lawless, and that person was former prime minister Tony Abbott; hailed abroad for his stand against Russian President Vladimir Putin and mocked at home for his honesty — just as he was last month when he presciently warned of the impending catastrophic effects of Europe’s capitulation to the flood of so-called refugees.

It took the horror of last week’s attack to mobilise France, but the US — under its weakest post-WWII leader, President Barack Obama — has failed to offer the world any hope it will fulfil its Western leadership role.

The lessons for Australia are obvious. The same socialism that inflicted cancerous Molenbeek on the Belgian population has long infected popular culture in Australia.

Multiculturalism has been permitted to degrade the core values that underpinned the success Australia enjoyed as a migrant nation once attracting people from diverse cultures who wished to enjoy the freedoms of religion and speech that were once at the core of our national fibre.

Whether taking the pledge or swearing the oath of allegiance, new citizens solemnly undertake to give their loyalty to Australia and its people and their democratic beliefs, respecting their rights and liberties and upholding and obeying their laws.

Yet we see so-called refugee advocates urging foreigners to break our laws, weak-kneed university administrations turning a blind eye to student groups who oppose free speech on campuses, and politicians who have permitted suburbs such as Lakemba to turn into ghettos where English is rarely heard and women who don’t hide themselves in hideous garments are discriminated against.

The national anthem and our national flag are mocked by academics and the bien pensants who run the ABC. Mainstream Australians from both sides of politics feel their parties have let them down.

Our governments at every level must make it clear that they, too, stand for our rights, liberties, and laws and loyalty to our nation, and not for a meaningless degrading melange of inclusiveness, diversity and multiculturalism. 


Bible teachings  forbidden in Victorian  schools

VICTORIAN students can make Christmas decorations and sing carols in class but hymns are forbidden.  This is one of the new rules put in place by the Victorian government to tackle how religion is taught in schools.

Students will be allowed to dress up for the Hindu festival, Diwali, or indulge in sweet delights from Muslim’s Eid celebrations. But looking at the Bible, Koran or any other religious text will be strictly banned in class time from next year.

Prayers and instructions on how to live in accordance to a particular faith will also be unacceptable in the classroom.

Under the new government plan, Special Religious Instruction can be taught in schools in the hour before or after school or at lunch times by an accredited instructor approved by the Minister for Education. A teacher must also be present and children must have permission from their parents to attend.

Fairness in Religions in School chief executive Lara Wood has been fighting to eliminate Special Religious Instruction from state schools and while she welcomed the changes, she still had her concerns.

“We are worried about the lunchtime classes because we know from past experience the volunteers do try to convert the kids and don’t stick to the curriculum,” she said. “We are concerned that could happen.”

Principals get to decide whether they want Special Religious Instruction within their school at all and Ms Wood commended the government for giving them more power.

“If a school did decide to take it on, it would mean a lot more work for schools because they will have to closely monitor the program to make sure the rules are being followed,” she said.

In Victorian state schools previously, children were being split up to learn about their religion during class time.

Ms Wood said school work was impacted and children were segregated. “The new guidelines will remove this problem altogether though and I think it’s fantastic,” she said.

It will now be the teacher’s responsibility to educate children generally about religion and the main holidays and celebrations.

On occasion, guest speakers who are representatives of a particular faith can explain their religion further to students but they must not promote it.

Ms Wood said teaching children about all religions would make them more tolerant, respectful and accepting.  “We hope Victoria will now lead the way for other states,” she said.


Australia Post:  Muslim favouritism?

This story has been circulating for some time but seems to be totally factual. A story in the Left-leaning SMH confirms most of it, including the size of Ahmed Fahour's salary package.  The salary is undoubtedly disproportionate, signaling at a minimum that Mr Fahour has friends in all the right places.  Recent rises in the price of stamps make the whole matter particularly galling

Recently Australia Post which is totally government owned and has been for 200 years, announced the loss of 900 jobs, being part of a cut back program.

This is due to the decline in letters beings sent and that's true as email has further reduced letter writing and in many ways understandably.

The CEO of Australia Post is Ahmed Fahour who was born in Lebanon and came to Australia in 1970.

In 2009 he was made Managing Director and CEO of Australia Post.

His salary package was estimated to be worth $4.8 million last year.   Of this he donated about $2 million to the Islamic Museum of Australia located in Melbourne.

I have a big problem with this fellow's salary package and so let's get some perspective here.

The top ten executives in Australia Post combined earn around $20 million each year.

That's simply immoral and clearly the CEO can afford to give away nearly half his takings to an Islamic Museum as he doesn't need it, and surprise, surprise ....  it's tax deductable.

The founder and director of the Museum is former Macquarie Bank executive ..., Moustafa Fahour - Ahmed Fahour's brother. Moustafa's wife, Maysaa, is the chairwoman and Director. The Fahours' sister, Samira El Khafir, is Head Chef and manages the restaurant on site.

How can the CEO of the Post Office earn so much,  especially when the postal service is bleeding money from letter delivery. No employee is worth 5 million a year and especially not from a government owned business.

The top Federal Public Servants in Australia have salaries of between $665,600 and $844,800 so how does the bloke in charge of the Post Office received $4.8 million?  The Prime Minister of Australia earns a modest $507,000 considering the real burdens of office,  while the CEO of the Gold Coast Council earning slightly less and that's patently out of kilter with the PM's package. The Mayor of GCCC brings in $225,000 so how on earth can the Post Office justify the massive pay of their CEO?.

Let's look further.  The head of the US Postal Service with 19 times more staff and 11 times more revenue than Australia Post receives $550,000.

In France the head of their post office was paid $1.1 million with a staff compliment of 268,000 employees.

What a country full of mugs are we to sit by and let all this happen??   I would have run the big game of Post Office for a lot less and still done a reasonable job and in fact,  if the best of we seniors applied ourselves we could run the damn Post Office better and accept a normal salary and a free lunch now and again.

You had better believe it too.

There is an unpleasant and some would say 'sinister' unbalanced agenda in Australia, which in the end preys on the average citizen, we the people.

We are no longer the lucky country and we are no longer wealthy and this particular game of Post Office reveals major fractures and faults on a number fronts in our society and culture.

Who is running the Country, who is pulling the levers and who is going to win? We the Mugs need to know.


Thursday, November 26, 2015

Decoding fact and fiction in coding

Trisha Jha is on the money below.  The idea of teaching programming to kids must have come from someone who knows nothing about it.  Only people in the top 2% of IQ will ever be able to program to any significant extent. I once tried to teach Uni NSW Sociology students programming in a language that seems easy to me  -- FORTRAN -- but none of them actually learnt it as far as I could tell.  My son has recently got a job as a computer  programmer but he has a first class honours degree in mathematics and spent a solid 18 months doing computer programming courses at university.  There are some very bright kids who take to computer languages like a duck to water but that is the end of it.  Average kids will never acquire useful programming skills

We're seeing an increasingly apparent borderline obsession with getting primary school age kids to learn to 'code', i.e. computer programming. Bill Shorten promoted it in his Budget Reply speech this year and various commentators have formed a chorus.

The focus on coding does have sensible origins. The 2009 Melbourne Declaration made the fairly common-sense observation that school students should be prepared for "a world in which information technology will be ubiquitous."

It seems schools aren't doing a very good job. The National Assessment Program includes an ICT component, and the 2014 report for Years 6 and 10 released this week shows  test performance - in terms of mean scores and the percentage of students reaching basic standards - is poor and has declined since 2011. Only 55% of Year 6 students were deemed proficient, and just 52% of Year 10 students. Results were also differentiated by socio-economic status, with kids from professional urban households performing better than their rural and underprivileged peers.

It should not be surprising that 'digital natives' may not be so skilled after all. The technology people use on a daily basis is becoming less technical and more focused on 'idiot proof' apps.

Is it any wonder, then, that even children who are accustomed to using technology are often failing to grasp how to use it to complete concrete tasks? The idea that schools can 'teach' computing skills, the skills necessary for 'creative and productive' use of technology (as the Melbourne Declaration proposes) just by replacing the whiteboard with a smartboard, and exercise books with computers, is folly.

If the obsession with coding is shorthand for more explicit and purposeful teaching of ICT, as ACARA CEO Rob Randall has said there should be, then there's something to it. But trying to cram the teaching of a highly specific skill (likely by poorly-trained instructors, given there is already a shortage of maths and science teachers) into an already-crowded curriculum can only make things worse - especially when so many kids are still not functionally literate or numerate. Those are skills that even the most brilliant of software engineers cannot do without.


Australia has met its 2020 greenhouse emissions target five years early, Environment Minister Greg Hunt says

This will burn Greenies up.  It is of course a fudge but the whole Kyoto process was designed for fudges. Everybody else is fudging too. The big fudge is what date you take for your starting point

The Federal Government says it has met its 2020 greenhouse emissions target, ahead of this week's climate change talks in Paris.  It has released figures from the Department of Environment showing Australia had already achieved a 5 per cent reduction based on 2000 levels.

By 2020, the department predicted Australia would have met its target by 28 million tonnes.

Environment Minister Greg Hunt told the National Press Club it would make it easier to make additional cuts in the future.  "We have closed the gap and go to Paris officially subzero and on track to beat our 2020 target," Mr Hunt said.  "This still remains a conservative forecast, and I am hopeful that future updates will show an even greater surplus."

Mr Hunt will be joined in Paris by Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull and Foreign Minister Julie Bishop later this month.

The Federal Government has committed to a 26 per cent to 28 per cent reduction by 2030.

Labor has questioned the figures, claiming much of the gains were because of accounting measures. The department figures showed emission reductions from previous years had been carried over, with a reduction in economic growth also factored in.

Opposition environment spokesman Mark Butler said figures from market analyst Reputex showed carbon pollution between now and 2020 would see a 6 per cent rise.

"Malcolm Turnbull will get on the plane to Paris and presumably trumpet the fact that Australia has been able to technically achieve its Kyoto commitment," he said.

"But what will be clear is that Malcolm Turnbull is getting on that plane, laden down by Tony Abbott's policies that were deliberately designed to do nothing to reduce carbon pollution levels."

Mr Hunt rejected the claims and stood by his figures. "We can achieve and will achieve our 2030 target, although it will be a challenge, precisely as it should be," he said. "And we will achieve our targets without a carbon tax and without its pressure on electricity and gas prices."

Under the Kyoto Protocol, Australia promised to look at cuts of between 15 per cent and 25 per cent by 2020, if the rest of the world made similar cuts.

Mr Hunt stopped short of meeting that promise, but stressed that under current projections, Australia "in all likelihood" would go further than the current 5 per cent target.


Why terrorists have us all under the gun

THE Australian Army is removing a century-old motto on the hat of army chaplains, because it might offend Muslims.

“In this sign, conquer” is the motto written around a cross on a badge on the chaplains’ hats. The words are to be deleted, reportedly to better reflect the “diversity” of the army.

The army may as well delete the cross too, which is presumably even more offensive to the professional offence-takers of the Islamic community.

The move follows the appointment of an imam to advise the army for $717 a day, Sheik Mohamadu Nawas ­Saleem, who previously has suggested sharia law be introduced into Australian divorce courts.

So now we know it is official government policy to appease Islamists.

But if anyone objects, you can bet that they will be accused of “Islamophobia”.

And Islamophobia is to blame for terrorism, as the Grand Mufti told us after the Paris attacks.

Anyone who questions the ideology which justifies murder in the name of Islam is “dividing” the community and playing into the hands of IS.

Don’t question the spread of a lethal totalitarian ideology ­because that would be persecuting Muslims.  Don’t point out that terrorists from Paris to Parramatta who yell “Allahu Akbar” commit murder in the name of Islam. Don’t mention that more Muslims around the world are killed by other Muslims than by any “crusader” army because you’ll wreck the victim narrative.

This is the vice we are trapped in — between Western political correctness and Islamist propaganda.

This is why our progressive new Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull found it so hard to respond forthrightly to the Paris terrorist attacks. His first response was to say “freedom stands up for itself”, when freedom only stands because our soldiers fought for it, as part of the army whose heritage is being sold out by politically correct appeasers.

The PM also last week committed Australia to the Obama agenda in the Middle East, ­despite the fact it has been a tragic failure.

But the Obama agenda has been for America to project weakness, and leave a vacuum filled by Russia, Iran and Islamist terrorists.

Turnbull claimed the way to deal with the terrorists was by “political settlement”, “compromise” and some sort of “power sharing deal”, which could include Sunni elements linked to IS, but that was up to the Syrians.

No wonder Turnbull is more popular with Islamic fundamentalists and their left-wing apologists than his straight-talking predecessor.

He couldn’t even bring himself to criticise the Grand Mufti, Ibrahim Abu Mohammed, who blamed “causative factors” including racism, Islamophobia and foreign policy for IS attacks on Paris.

But when the Mufti issued a “clarification” which still did not explicitly repudiate IS’s religious violence, the PM commended him.

We know Turnbull believes in the glass half full theory of life but that’s ridiculous.

The Mufti’s clarification, condemning “all forms of terrorist violence”, depended on how you define “terrorism” and “innocent lives”. If anything, the clarification made things worse.

None of this is a surprise to theologian Dr Mark Durie, author of The Third Choice: Islam, Dhimmitude And Freedom. The Anglican pastor warns that Australia is naive and unprepared to face the problem of Islamist extremism, because it misunderstands Islam.

Even counter-terrorism experts have “bought into a theologically illiterate view that all religions are the same and that Islam’s problems today are just a twisted ­distortion”.

“And I think if they have that view they’ll never understand what they’re trying to deal with and they will be ineffective to a significant degree because of that.” He says Australian Muslims he knows from the Middle East “are absolutely appalled by our naivety and inability to engage with the theological issues that are driving these movements”.

Durie also points to the fact that the Christian West is ­ignoring the plight of persecuted Christians in Iraq and Syria, and won’t even offer Christian refugees priority in their humanitarian intakes. “Somehow it’s a horrible thought crime.”

Turnbull’s soulmate, Obama, branded as “shameful” calls to prioritise Christian refugees over Muslims.

When Tony Abbott announced an extra intake of 12,000 Syrian refugees would comprise Christians and other persecuted minorities he was labelled a “bigot” by Islamic leaders. The UN refugee agency then demanded that religion play no part in refugee selection. The head of the government’s Syrian Refugee Resettlement Task Force insisted the intake would comprise a “range of religions” and the first family were Sunni Muslims.

Australia’s Christian leaders have expressed concerns that the government is breaking its promise and that most of the intake will be Muslims.

Privately the government says it will give preference to “persecuted minorities”.

But it doesn’t want to antagonise the UN by saying so publicly. Again, appeasement is official policy.


Labor comes out as anti-free speech on marriage

Labor nailed its colours to the Greens’ anti-free speech mast today, joining them to block a Senate motion supporting the Catholic church’s right to teach the orthodox Christian view of marriage.

Australian Christian Lobby Managing Director Lyle Shelton said it was chilling to have the alternative party of government oppose in Parliament the church’s right to teach about marriage being between one man and one woman.

“Labor’s action raises serious questions about where the same-sex political debate is taking our nation.

“Labor’s move coupled with Greens politicians Adam Bandt and Robert Simms today calling people who support traditional marriage ‘bigots’, is evidence of a growing intolerance emerging in Australian politics.”

The Senate motion was to support the Catholic church’s right to free speech in the face of an anti-discrimination complaint lodged with authorities in Tasmania.

The Tasmanian Anti-Discrimination Commissioner is investigating the complaint by a transgender Greens’ political candidate against the Catholic church for distributing a booklet that explains its millennia-old view on marriage.

A decision by the Commissioner on whether or not the complaint is sustained is expected any day. If sustained, the church will likely end up in court.

In an extraordinary political maneuver, Labor today joined the Greens in blocking the motion from even being discussed in the Senate.

The motion was co-sponsored by Liberal senator Eric Abetz, independent John Madigan, Liberal Democrat David Leyonhjelm, Family First’s Bob Day, and Palmer United party’s Dio Wang.

The motion stated that: “The Senate, while not expressing a view on the contents of the booklet issued by the Australian Catholic Bishops conference entitled Don’t Mess with Marriage, fully supports the rights of members of the Catholic church, including Archbishop Julian Porteous, to distribute it.”

Mr Shelton said today was a sad day for free speech and freedom of religion.

“While Australians may have different views on its definition, I don’t think anyone ever thought we would see the day when political parties would use Parliament and the law to stifle free speech on marriage.

“It is important that people who care about preserving marriage and free speech take an interest in the Turnbull Government’s plan to hold a people’s vote on marriage after the next federal election,” Mr Shelton said.


Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Why Islamic violence?  Leftist "New Matilda" has no answers

Megan Giles, who wrote the article I excerpt below, has a significant academic background.  It is however a solidly Leftist one, so we cannot expect much in the way of balance or academic rigour from her. She mainly seems to be a do-gooder.  Anyway, she knows a bit about history.  And she parades that history as if it excuses or at least explains the current epidemic of Muslim violence. She spells out the tired old comment that Christians and Christian countries have been violent in the past too.  As if nobody knew that!

There she is. Isn't she gorgeous?

But it is not history we have to deal with. It is the present. So why is the present-day world's flood of political violence coming from Muslims?

She seems to think that it is Muslims "getting even" with the West for colonialism.  But de-colonization took place around 50 years ago.  And, after some initial eruptions, the decolonized world was mostly peaceful.  What has suddenly caused it to erupt? And why are Indo-China and other non-Muslim ex-colonies not erupting?  And why are the people being killed at the moment overwhelmingly Muslim, rather than the wicked colonists? 

Megan has not apparently thought of those questions.  Her conventional Leftist hates are all she has to explain anything, whether they fit or not.  She is a procrustean.

I and many others point to the way in which ISIS and other violent Muslims are just doing what the Koran says.  Megan thinks that cannot be the explanation as Christians have been similarly vicious at times too.  But that is a non-sequitur. A particular type of behaviour can arise from many causes. And that normal human selfishness has caused Christians to GO AGAINST New Testament teachings proves nothing.  But Muslims don't have to do that.  The Jihadis are not going against ANYTHING in their religion.  Their deeds and faith are in harmony. So we at least need to note that.

And that makes a difference to what adherents of the two religions hear.  Both Mullahs and priests tell their adherents to do as their holy books say.  So Christian priests overwhelmingly preach peace and kindness while the Mullahs overwhelmingly preach conquest.  And preaching can be influential.  Why do it otherwise? For most people -- Christian or Muslim -- it goes in one ear and out the other. They usually accept the wisdom of it but don't act on it.   But some do. So on the one hand we have the provision of Christian hospitals and schools while on the other we have gruesome violence.

So what the Koran says is indeed central to the Muslim problem -- because it is what most of the Mullahs preach --  and what the Mullahs preach is influential.

But why is it that we have the upsurge of violence now?  Megan does not even attempt to tell us.  She had no answers about the causes of Muslim violence at all.

But I think the cause is pretty clear. It is in that history that Megan thinks she knows about. It is a product of ham-fisted European intervention. A skeletal outline:

It all started with the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan.  Afghanistan had been a reasonably secular State up until then.  But it was part of the Ummah, part of the Muslim world. So it was devout Muslims who chased the Soviets out.  The invasion aroused the devout Muslims and eventually made them the only effective force in the land.  And they used that power to transform Afghanistan into a Koranic State, a centre of Islamic righteousness and virtue.

And it might have stopped there except for the fact that the Afghan upheavals had attracted a very rich Saudi who became instrumental in defeating the Soviets: Osama bin Laden.

And Koranic virtue does preach attack on the infidel, the kuffar. So after helping to defeat the Soviets, Osama bin Laden was "feeling his oats" and sought new fields to conquer -- and consequently organized  the attack on the exceedingly un-Muslim USA, with results we all know about.

And since then it has been push and counter-push. An Afghanistan-enmeshed organization -- Al Qaeda -- attacked the USA so the USA attacked Afghanistan in an attempt to root them out.  And once the USA under George Bush was mobilized, they thought that the sabre-rattling coming from Iraq sounded dangerous too so decided that a pre-emptive war there was needed to avoid another "9/11".

But in both Afghanistan and Iraq, the Americans had no reasonable idea of an end-game. Despite all the evidence to the contrary, they assumed that destroying the hostile regime would enable them to give the grateful natives the blessings of democracy.  But there is no history of democracy in the Middle  East and no hankering for it. Instead there is a 4,000 year history of tyrannies.  So the semi-democratic regimes set up by the Americans had no legitimacy in the eyes of the people and consequently had little control over anybody or anything.  Instead we have had chaos.

But nobody likes chaos and many influential Muslims of the Middle East have put their hands up as the new tough-guy leader who will restore peace and unity -- and maybe even become the new Caliph.  And that is what has been going on.  Can it have escaped anyone's notice that 98% of the people dying are Muslims?  Much of the the Middle East and North Africa is in the midst of a civil war to determine who the next tyrant will be.  The people there want a strong tyrant not a wishy-washy democracy.

And amid those struggles aspiring leaders will do everything they can to acquire legitimacy.  And attacks on the West are a good way of doing that.  It enables the aspiring tyrants to claim Islamic righteousness.  So what constitutes Islamic righteousness does matter.  And we find that in the Koran.

And all the excitement of the struggle does catch the attention of people in the Western world whose ancestry is in Muslim lands.  And a tiny minority decide that they want a part of the action.
So some of those go to Syria, while others attack individuals in their country of residence.

So is it reasonable to target the whole Muslim minority of a Western country in some way?  I think it is.  But no half  measures will do.  Tentative measures will just exacerbate the problem.  The small minority of radicalized Muslims can do a lot of damage and cause a lot of disruption, social and otherwise.  And the populations of Western countries are becoming increasingly intolerant of that, as they should.  We wouldn't accept such disruption from anyone else so why should we accept it from young Muslims?

But how can we get violent young Muslims out of our countries? How do we detect in advance who they are?  We cannot.  So the only way of getting the violent young Muslims out of our countries is to get ALL Muslims out of our countries.  I believe it will come to that.  Muslim populations ARE a breeding-ground for terrorists and that undisputable fact endangers their continued long-term acceptance in Western countries.


Now listen to Megan. I have omitted her more sulphuric comments about Pauline Hanson:

Hanson states that the New Testament, unlike the Qur’an, is devoid of any violence, as if the relative peace and prosperity enjoyed by the Western world is somehow solely attributed to the teachings of Jesus Christ.

Hanson and many others fail to recognise the context of time, place and circumstance that permits the usurping of Quranic verses for such violence.

They fail to scrutinise what it is that separates the millions of Muslims, and millions of others of faith, who can read their sacred scriptures in their historical contexts, from those that totalise and literalise religious doctrine and wrongly champion it as the impetus for their savagery.

In the late 20th century, regimes across the Arab world shaped and utilised Islamic ideologies to solidify and mobilise support against Western liberalism. And so it goes, on and on through history. Past contexts magically transforming to suit present and future contexts.

When we place blame we go directly to the original source, without acknowledging how that source has been manipulated to accommodate contemporary political objectives.

Though all of this, in our current debate, is near-irrelevant. Focusing on the details of religious texts will lead us nowhere since we have, right in front of us, countless examples that help us understand the rise of Islamic State and specific historical, albeit complex and multi-faceted, justifications for North African and Middle Eastern violence.

Indeed what is missing from mainstream debates about contemporary terrorism is the very heavy historical baggage it carries.

Tony Blair has apologised for “mistakes” made during the 2003 invasion of Iraq. The US government’s hasty state-building policies after the disbanding of the Iraqi army left thousands of young men angry, armed and unemployed.

Unfortunately, only few commentators will reach back far enough into history to examine the brutal, incendiary and utterly destructive legacy of colonialism in the Middle East to understand contemporary violence.

While ‘we’ in the West have moved on from colonialism and want everyone else to just ‘get over it’, post-colonial states were never given space to – they live its continuity in the neocolonial economic policies of the Washington Consensus and the ubiquity of a militarised national consciousness where violence pervades and reproduces.

The late Algerian psychiatrist Franz Fanon has written passionately on the impact of colonialism on the colonised individual’s psyche, and its propensity for creating violent separatist and regionalist factions, long after independence.

“At the individual level, violence is a cleansing force. It rids the colonized of their inferiority complex, of their passive and despairing attitude… Violence hoists the people up to the level of the leader.”

Despite the horrors of history committed on every continent, our right to anger and grieve over the bloodshed in Paris is doubtless. It must be denounced with the loudest possible voice and responded to with the strongest possible deliberation and vigilance.

Good people lost their lives because they represented the freedom we all hold dear, no matter our race, nationality or religion. Though we must fall short of dismay that Middle Eastern wars have somehow spilled over onto a bystanding Europe caught up in the crossfire.

These wars belong to the Great Powers and they always have. As Gordon Adams has noted, “France has been a central arena for the confrontation between Islam and political-religious Christian Europe for 1,300 years.”

The proceeding centuries were characterised by a vicious brand of colonialism under the guise of exporting a concept of citizenship that was highly exclusionary at home, and anti-Islamic domestic policies leaving hostility an omnipresence weaved through France’s social and political fabric.

Adams states, “France needs to undergo a deep self-examination, and a fundamental revision of the current practice of sidelining its large Muslim population, leaving them disaffected, poorly educated, underemployed, and ripe for recruitment to terrorism.”

All religious texts have the capacity to unite or divide humanity. Our conversation must start centering on the dark, ugly side of human nature and the contexts that breed violent extremists of which our own states are often complicit in.


Cory Bernardi: Australia must reconsider refugee intake in light of Paris attacks

Screening process for refugees is open to inaccuracies

The government must reconsider its decision to take an extra 12,000 refugees from Syria and Iraq in light of the Paris attacks, Liberal backbencher Cory Bernardi has said.

Bernardi told ABC TV on Monday he supported the initial cabinet decision to offer an additional 12,000 visas to refugees from Syria and Iraq, on top of the 13,750 existing humanitarian visa places.

But since this month’s attacks in the French capital, Bernardi has changed his mind.

“I do think that cabinet now needs to reconsider the decision to take in 12,000 additional refugees on the basis of evidence that’s come to light over the last week,” he said.

“In our previous refugee intake we’ve had examples where people who have been accepted as refugees have gone on to commit terrorist acts or planned terrorist acts in this country. Why do we think that suddenly this is going to be any different?”

Bernardi said the screening process for refugees was open to inaccuracies, as security agencies were unable to go to Syria to do background checks. He also objected to handing over the decision of who could come to Australia to the “bunch of unelected bureaucrats” at the United Nations refugee agency.

“A lot of the most persecuted minorities in the Middle East – the Jews, the Christians, the Yazidis – don’t even go to UNHCR camps, they don’t register there because they’re scared for their lives by the Muslim communities there,” Bernardi said.

He said he wanted a rethink of the way the whole system worked.

“I do believe we should be reassessing our refugee humanitarian intake,” the Liberal senator said, adding his views were shared by many Australians.

“For many years I’ve been voicing my concerns about extremist elements in the country and the lack of political will to confront that and of course I’ve been called all sorts of names for my trouble by my colleagues and the media,” Bernardi said.

“But the point is I’ve been right about it and it is now a widespread community sentiment. We have extremist elements at work in this country. Why risk bringing in more to add to their ranks, even potentially, and bear the financial and social burden that comes with that?”

Bernardi’s call to axe the 12,000 refugee intake was promptly shot down by the attorney general, George Brandis, who reiterated the government’s determination to proceed during a statement to the Senate condemning the Paris attacks.

“These attacks give no reason to reduce our commitment to helping those who flee the barbarism of Isil and other terrorists,” Brandis said during question time on Monday. “Indeed, they demonstrate more graphically why it is necessary, both to stand resolutely against Isil, and also, to help as best we can its many innocent victims, including the 12,000 Syrian refugees we have rightly committed to take.”

The immigration minister, Peter Dutton, told the House of Representatives’ question time 2,800 Syrian and Iraqi refugees were in the process of having health and security checks as part of the 12,000 intake.

“The Australian government has in place the most robust security screening measures in relation to those coming in under the humanitarian program and we will not resile from that one bit,” Dutton said.

He said the government would cast aside any application of those seeking to come into Australia under the humanitarian visa system if the application presented security concerns.

The first five of the 12,000 intake, a Syrian family, arrived in Perth last week, in line with the government’s promise to resettle the first group by Christmas.

But the New South Wales refugee resettlement coordinator, Peter Shergold, told ABC radio on Monday morning the lengthy security process refugees had to undertake could mean the bulk of the 12,000 visa holders would not be resettled until 2017.

“I’m working on the basis that the vast majority will come next year, in 12 or 18 months, not six months,” he said. “I think it’s appropriate that screening, security, character checks are all done before they arrive.”


Australian Greenies still not happy about coal compromise

They've rightly figured out that Australia's conservative government has in fact THWARTED international attempts to stop investments in coal.  New generators are likely to use coal in poor countries only. New generators in advanced countries will be using gas anyhow

By Hannah Aulby, a clean energy campaigner for the Australian Conservation Foundation.

The Australian government has watered down an international deal on coal subsidies – essentially protecting the future profits of the Carmichael coal mine ahead of the best interests of our communities and environment.

Hailed as a ‘landmark’ deal to reduce public subsidies to coal fired power stations, the agreement by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development aims to stop public financing of the dirtiest coal projects. In the past seven years, rich countries' export credit agencies have funded about $35 billion worth of coal. The Turnbull Government was looking to block the deal, but has come onside at the last minute with a caveat – that old dirty coal power plants can still be financed in 8 of the world’s poorest nations.

The Minerals Council of Australia, hardly champions of climate action and poverty reduction, welcomed the deal, saying that it paves the way for coal powered development. And Trade Minister Andrew Robb said the deal provided coal fired power to lift millions out of energy poverty.

Again Australia is getting left behind by a world ready to move beyond coal. As well as the international political intent shown at the OECD, international markets are moving. Global coal consumption has fallen 2-4% this year, including a 6% drop in China. This being the case, we have, in fact, passed peak coal. Demand is dropping, and yet Australia continues to champion the Carmichael mine as the future of low emissions development. Continuing down the mine shaft will only leave us with stranded assets in a dinosaur economy.

Domestically the markets are turning on coal too. New projects are struggling to attract private investment, as seen by the Victorian brown coal project in the Latrobe Valley that was just withdrawn by Chinese firm Shanghai Electric Australia as it failed to reach the first investment milestones.


Pfizer US tax escape suggests an opportunity for Australia

The tax-driven reverse merger of American pharmaceutical giant Pfizer and Dublin-based Allergan to create the world's biggest drug firm is a timely reminder to Australian policymakers that they need to ensure the corporate tax system is internationally competitive.

Pfizer joins dozens of United States firms fleeing the penal US business tax system that charges a rate of up to 39 per cent on worldwide income, comprising federal and state corporate income taxes.

For a medium sized, capital importing economy such as Australia, it is an opportune time to reinforce that capital in a globalised world is increasingly mobile and firms will relocate to where they can make the best after tax returns for shareholders.

Under the tax "inversion" deal worth up to about $US155 billion unveiled on Monday, Pfizer will shift its corporate citizenship to low-tax Ireland, despite 56 per cent of shares in the new company belonging to US-based Pfizer shareholders. The merged company will trade on the New York Stock Exchange.

Even though the US Treasury will miss out on billions of dollars in tax revenue when Pfizer redomiciles, Pfizer chief executive Ian Read said the transaction was a "great deal for America" because the firm would continue to invest $US9 billion and employ 45,000 people in the US.

The Obama administration has taken incremental administrative attempts to block the wave of US companies like Pfizer, Burger King and a host of pharmaceutical firms involved in cross-border tax deals from escaping the US tax net.

The US government has had little success because the Treasury and Congress have failed to strike at the heart of the problem; an internationally uncompetitive tax code imposing high rates and incentivising firms to shift and stash profits in low-tax jurisdictions.

The political class in Canberra, business leaders and unions appear to be engaging in a healthy debate about the future of the country's tax system, including corporate tax.

Australia's 30 per cent rate is more competitive than the US, especially once dividend imputation credits for shareholders are taken into account.

Ken Henry's tax review commissioned by the former Labor government recommended cutting the rate to 25 per cent to stoke investment and lift the wages of workers. Dr Henry found the incidence of company tax ultimately falls on workers.

In 2001, Australia had the ninth lowest corporate tax rate in the developed world and below the OECD's unweighted average of 32.5 per cent. The OECD average has since fallen to 25 per cent and Australia has slipped to 28th, as economies like the United Kingdom, Ireland and New Zealand have cut corporate rates.

Pfizer expects the combined maker of Botox and Viagra to have an adjusted tax rate of about 17 per cent in Ireland, compared to the 25 per cent rate it currently pays in the US after allowing for deductions.

"The threat of succumbing to US tax rates has meant that Pfizer has been desperate for a deal outside the US," said Warwick Business School professor John Colley.

The White House and Congressional democrats criticised the move, while presidential candidate Hillary Clinton said inversion deals will leave US taxpayers "holding the bag".

The US not only has a high maximum rate, but unlike other economies, it takes corporate earnings overseas when they are repatriated home. This has led to the perverse situation of companies like cash cow Apple stashing large amounts of funds overseas and borrowing money at home to pay dividends.

As the mining boom winds down, Australia will need to retain and attract new sources of foreign capital into other sectors of the economy.

A competitive corporate tax system will be an important drawcard.

If literally dozens of tax-paying companies are running away from the home of capitalism and emptying the US Treasury's coffers, then Australia cannot afford to be too complacent.